Johnette Cruz left behind a career in television to pursue interests closest to her heart
By Jon Shoulders
Photography by Josh Marshall
Greenwood resident Johnette Cruz has lived on both coasts and in several cities in between, she has toured as a dancer, and she has worked at three major media outlets in Indianapolis since relocating to the city in 2004. Currently, Cruz serves as communications director at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, and the job, as well as her current station in life, feels like home to the 31-year-old wife and mother. In fact, she maintains, there’s no place she’d rather be.
Cruz’s parents hail from Puerto Rico, where much of her extended family still lives, moving to the States during the 1960s. When Cruz was 9, her family moved from New York to Chula Vista, a city in the southern metropolitan area of San Diego.
During her formative years, Cruz developed a passion for singing and dancing. “When I was a little girl I wanted to be a choreographer, and I was a cheerleader in high school,” she recalls. “That was my thing to do.”
Upon graduating from high school, Cruz left for Las Vegas, where she attended a community college and trained at a local dance academy on the side. Eventually, dance opportunities took her on another journey, this time to Virginia Beach, where she was hired to work as a backup R&B dancer.
It was in Virginia Beach where Cruz met her future husband, Mike, approximately 12 years ago. A southside Indianapolis native who attended Center Grove High School, Mike was also living in Virginia Beach. The two dated for a year before Mike’s job brought him back to the Indianapolis area. “At that point I had lived in several different places, and I thought OK, I’ve never tried the Midwest before, so let’s try it and see how it works,” she says.
With a new city came a new career path. In 2005, she took a position in the promotions department at Clear Channel Radio. “I realized I needed to get realistic about a career, and I thought, well, since I love music so much, how about radio?” she says. From 2008 to 2010, she worked for 92.3 WTTS. Radio soon led to TV : She landed the traffic anchor spot for “Good Morning Indiana” on local ABC affiliate WRTV-6.
Not long after moving to Indy, Cruz had become a member at Mount Pleasant Christian Church. Early on, she began hosting televised announcements for the congregation there, which provided some much-needed experience in preparing her for a career in broadcasting. Ironically, volunteering also got her noticed at the church— and it foreshadowed yet another eventual shift in her career path.
In January 2013, Cruz left Channel 6 to become communications director at Mount Pleasant. She decided to make the move “because that is where my heart truly is,” she says. “Church was at one point not in my life, and now it’s part of every little thing that I do.”
Her faith, she explains, has been growing ever since she moved to Indianapolis, and it is now her passion. She feels as though she traded in one passion—broadcasting— for another. “I’m able to use everything that I’ve learned in radio and TV in my position now,” she says.
The move also gave Cruz more time with her young family, something she says she was lacking with the early hours of her TV career. For her morning show, she would often have to wake up at 2:30 a.m., and it affected the quality of her family time. “I wanted to be more awake with my son, and my husband’s and my schedule was just completely opposite,” she explains. “As soon as he got home from work, I was getting ready for bed, so it made it hard to have any family time throughout the week.”
In her new position, Cruz now oversees the communication aspects of all of Mount Pleasant’s ministry programs; she also works daily to help build community relationships.
Chris Philbeck, senior pastor at Mount Pleasant, says Cruz’s commitment and enthusiasm as a member of the church— which with more than 3,000 weekly attendees has reached “mega-church” status—add a personal touch in her position as one of the church’s voices in the community. “In a church our size, communication is always critical,” Philbeck explains. “It’s critical not only for our regular weekend services and ministries, but also for the extended ministries we have. Johnette does an excellent job staying on top of all these things.”
In 2013, Cruz helped to coordinate a partnership between Mount Pleasant and Team World Vision Indianapolis to host a half marathon. The event raised money to provide clean water for communities in Africa. She is an on-air host for “Difference Makers,” a feature on local Christian radio station Shine.FM that showcases nonprofit organizations located around the city.
“To be able to highlight other nonprofit organizations that are truly making a difference in our own backyard is just incredible,” she says. “There are so many giving people in our community willing to help others in need, and we wanted to be able to spread the word about all of these great organizations.”
Cruz also tours the U.S. helping with a women’s conference called Finally Free, organized by Fishers-based Tabor Ministries. Cruz is a publicist for the conference and helps out as emcee and host.
Still possessing a love for music, Cruz also sings in Mount Pleasant’s weekend choir and on its vocal team, and she created a program at the church that takes members of the church’s ministry into the city to visit the sick and elderly. During these visits, she explains, vocal team members share songs and prayer with those in need.
In her spare moments, she looks for creative ways to fit in quality time with Mike, who works in sales in the food industry, and their 4-year-old son, Cruz. “My husband and I just instituted a date night, and I’m so glad that we’ve been able to set aside some time for ourselves,” she says. They regularly go to the movies and work out together.
Ultimately, however, quality time is about spending time as a family—an extended family. “When we do something, it’s not just me, Mike and Cruz,” she explains. “It’s normally everyone—my sister-in-law and her husband, and my niece and nephew. I love to shop, and my sister-in-law is my partner in crime. We really try to be family-oriented and do different things with the kids. We genuinely love each other and want to be around one another all the time.”
As for living in Greenwood, Cruz says she “wouldn’t change where we are for the world. I’ve never experienced, in all the places I’ve been in, such a feeling of community (as) here.”